Sticky Chicken Tostadas with Smoky Pepita Spread

Can we make Tostada Thursdays a thing? I mean, if tacos can conquer Tuesdays, why can’t Tostadas rule Thursdays? Tostadas may not be as familiar as the ever-popular taco, but they are just as good. And I’m sure this whole Taco Tuesday phenomenon is doing nothing for the tostadas’ self-esteem. Sure, tostadas are traditionally made with day-old tortillas and yes, they are not exactly an eat-with-your-hands-friendly snack. But they are capable of just as much deliciousness as their taco brethren. And as evidence of that fact, I put forward these Sticky Chicken Tostadas with Smoky Pepita Spread. One bite of these babies and you’ll forget all about tacos.

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These Sticky Chicken Tostadas are the perfect example of a clean out the fridge kind of meal. Got some chicken breast in your freezer? Look no further. Old tortillas drying out on the counter? Help is here. I’m confident these tostadas will fit into your weeknight rotation because that’s how they started out in life.

The chicken component of these Sticky Chicken Tostadas was originally an off-the-cuff freestyle that miraculously worked out. Bae and I love this chicken. We’ve eaten it over rice, on nachos, and alongside a salad. Anytime I make something more than three or four times without forcing myself to do so, I know I’ve got something blog-worthy. But although the chicken is nothing short of amazing, it didn’t feel quite extra enough for the blog. Enter the Smoky Pepita Spread.

Once upon a time, Bae and I went to Tulum, Mexico. Well, actually once upon many times is far more accurate. We can’t seem to stay away. Anyway, the first time we went to Tulum we were served a dip neither of us had encountered before. We were absolutely blown away by its warm nutty flavor, silky texture, and the smoky finish. We polished off the bowl without knowing what we were eating. When the waiter returned for the licked clean dish, we asked what it was. He told us it was Sikil P’ak, a traditional Mayan dip made of ground hulled pumpkin seeds otherwise known as pepitas.

Now, they did not reveal all the secrets of Sikil P’ak, so I can’t call the Smoky Pepita Spread included in this recipe “Sikil P’ak”. But having had the real deal, I can say the spread bears more than a passing resemblance to Sikil P’ak in terms of looks and flavor.

But the most important thing to know about this Smoky Pepita Spread is not its origin. No, the most important thing is it’s as an excellent primer for tostadas. Even though these Sticky Chicken Tostadas are a quicker fix without the spread, I would advise you not to skip it. The Smoky Pepita Spread sends these tostadas over the top. It elevates them from a frazzled weeknight nosh to an indulgence. And yes, even Thursdays can be indulgent.

As I mentioned before, tostadas were designed to solve a very simple food waste problem – what to do with stale tortillas? Given the specific folded formation of the taco, we all know that stale tortillas need not apply. So what to do with past-their-taco-prime tortillas? Easy! Fry ’em! It’s amazing how often that is the answer.

Beyond the near-perfect chicken and the sumptuous spread, these tostadas have yet another selling feature – their crispy, fried tortilla base. Now, this should not strike fear into the hearts of the deep-frying-averse because a short shallow fry is all that stands between you and golden crisp perfection. The process doesn’t take more than 10 minutes to fry a whole pack of tortillas and you’ll be left with a base that tastes like the best tortilla chip you ever did eat.

As far as toppings for your Sticky Chicken Tostadas go, you can let your cravings drive. I selected avocado, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, red onion, jalapeno to mine but don’t let my choices limit you. As I said, there is nothing remotely authentic about these tostadas, so don’t feel beholden to the taco counter standbys.

So, that’s everything you need to know about these Sticky Chicken Tostadas with Smoky Pepita Spread. Quick, simple and wonderfully indulgent. What more could you ask of a Thursday?



Sticky Chicken Tostadas with Smoky Pepita Spread

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Servings 2


  • 2 chicken breasts boneless, skinless
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 shot tequila
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 2 cloves garlic thinly sliced
  • 3 jalapeños halved and thinly sliced, divided
  • 1/4 cup cilantro finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp ancho chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp salt divided
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 6 corn tortillas
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 batch Smoky Pepita Spread see below
  • 1 handful cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1 avocado peeled, pitted and sliced
  • 1/2 red onion thinly sliced
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro coarsely chopped

Smoky Pepita Spread

  • 2 cups unsalted pepitas
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp olive oil divided
  • 2 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 lime juiced


Smoky Pepita Spread

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Place the pepitas in a medium-sized bowl and pour 1 tbsp of the olive oil over top. Toss to coat and set aside.
  • In a small bowl whisk to combine the chili powder, cumin, sugar, salt, pepper flakes, and coriander. Sprinkle the mixture over the pepitas and toss to coat.
  • Transfer the pepitas to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Disperse the seeds evenly across the baking sheet. Bake until golden and crisp, about 10-15 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes.
  • Transfer the seeds to a large food processor and add the rest of the oil and lime juice. Blitz until a thick, cohesive spread forms. Transfer the spread to a bowl, cover and chill until ready to use.

For the Tostadas

  • In a medium size bowl whisk to combine the olive oil, lime juice, tequila, jalapeños, garlic and cilantro. Add the chili powder, cumin and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Whisk again. Place the chicken breast into the bowl and toss to coat in the marinade. Cover and chill. Leave the chicken to marinate for 8 hours or overnight.
  • Heat a quarter-sized amount of canola oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Place the chicken breast in the skillet and sear on both sides until golden.
  • Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the marinade and add it to the skillet. Discard the solids. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let the chicken cook for 10 minutes, turning once, or until the juices run clear. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and tent with foil. Set aside.
  • Stir the remaining salt and the brown sugar into the chicken's poaching liquid. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil.
  • In a small bowl whisk to combine the cornstarch and water. Pour the mixture into the boiling poaching liquid. Cook until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, stirring constantly.
  • Shred the chicken with two forks and pour the sauce over top. Toss to coat. Keep warm until ready to serve.
  • In a cast iron skillet heat the canola oil until shimmering. Add the tortillas and fry until crisp and golden brown. About 2-3 minutes a side. Transfer the fried tortillas to a plate lined with paper towel and let drain.
  • Spread a little of the Smoky Pepita Spread on each tortilla. Top the spread with a large spoonful of the chicken followed by a few slices of avocado, tomato halves, red onion slices and fresh cilantro. Serve immediately with lime wedges and beer.

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